About a century and a half ago, most people still lived on small family farms.
The idea of work-life balance didn’t exist.
People worked to live. Period.
They got out of bed before sunrise. The men and boys worked outdoors in the fields and barns all day. The women and girls worked preparing meals, making clothes, keeping the house in order. The family was a team where each team member had many jobs to do. Everyone depended on each other to do their respective jobs. They’d meet in the kitchen three times a day for breakfast, dinner, and supper. That was their life. They worked hard to survive. That was living.
Today, our lives are dramatically different then the pioneer’s lives. We no longer worry about doing the basics to survive. Laundry takes an hour instead of all day. Meals can be put together in minutes rather than hours. And with a visit to a store, we can have a new wardrobe in 30-minutes.
The pioneers and farmers of the late 19th Century didn’t worry about work-life balance. They simply were concerned with staying alive.
Once the basic needs of daily survival were easily within our grasp, the concept of work-life balance has been invented. The phrase work-life balance was first used in the UK in the late 1970s and didn’t get used in the United States until 1986.
The combination of not needing to be concerned with basic survival and big advances in technology have created the illusion of a problem that our ancestors never would have fathomed.
Just as our ancestors worked all day to survive and live, we too have to work all day to survive and live. But the factory job mindset that developed a century ago changed the way we look at work. Work changed from something we did to survive – to something we had to do despite not particularly liking it. Work became a four-letter word. Not attractive. Burdensome.
We started complaining. Calling in sick. Seeing psychiatrists. Seeking therapy. Taking pills.
Why? Because we don’t like going to work. Specifically, we don’t like going and doing meaningless work.
And yet, we as a species are designed to work hard and produce. Live. Survive.
The trick is to find meaningful work.
We have infinite choices today. Our forefathers had very few choices. They were basically contented people. We’re in therapy.
The trick is to sort through the infinite number of possibilities and then make a choice.
Either way, we have to work hard. We can work hard doing meaningful work or we can work hard trying to solve our unhappiness and find meaning.
Work-life balance is a fallacy. We work to live.